Tracking the Chicago Bears’ moves in the 2024 NFL draft

After months of buildup for the Chicago Bears, the 2024 NFL draft finally has arrived — a chance for general manager Ryan Poles to change the course of the franchise by using the team’s first No. 1 pick since 1947.

The Bears drafted quarterback Caleb Williams with that pick to replace recently traded Justin Fields and then continued to build a team that finished the 2023 season 7-10.

2024 Bears picks

Here’s what to know about this year’s draft, including the Bears’ past history at No. 1 and No. 9 and what locals to keep an eye on. Want more? Make sure to follow the Tribune’s Brad Biggs, Colleen Kane and Dan Wiederer for the latest news all weekend and sign up for our Bears Insider newsletter.

A look at the players that Poles selected.

Round 1, No. 1: USC quarterback Caleb Williams

Height, weight: 6-1, 214.

Why the Bears drafted him

The 2022 Heisman Trophy winner was the consensus top pick after throwing for 8,170 yards and 72 touchdowns with just 10 interceptions in two seasons at USC after transferring from Oklahoma. He also rushed for 503 yards and 21 touchdowns.

“An elite, elite thrower,” according to NFL Network’s Daniel Jeremiah, Williams has been lauded for his ability to deliver from different arm angles and to change ball speed with accuracy. He has rare creative playmaking skills, strong pocket feel and mobility and a confidence to make big plays at big moments. The Athletic’s Dane Brugler noted he didn’t throw an interception on third or fourth down at USC, though he totaled 33 career fumbles.

In his own words

“I’d say the biggest thing is that (the Bears) want to win. …That’s what it really came down to, and that aligns with me. I want to be around people that want to win. I want to be around people that want to achieve high because it only makes me better. That only holds me accountable and it makes me excited to be around people like that.” — Williams on what he has learned about the Bears

Column: Can Caleb Williams reverse decades of Chicago Bears QB problems? The timing couldn’t be better.

Analyst’s take

“It’s not just the skillset, which is terrific. It’s also the sample size. … You’re talking about one of the best 2 ½-year runs for any quarterback prospect in college football in a long time. He immediately changes everything that you can do within the structure of your offense. And we’ve also talked about how outside of structure, one of the difficult players to defend, because even when you think you have a plan, Caleb Williams is so innovative and so creative that he might totally chop that plan in half and next thing you know you might have him running by you or you might have him throwing a 50-yard touchdown pass behind your defense.” — ESPN’s Field Yates

From the front office

“He’s got special instincts, awareness, especially in the pocket to manipulate the pocket, get in and out of the pocket, a feel for space is special. That’s his special sauce. Then once we kind of speed things up and start to identify different coverages and there’s an adjustment to an NFL offense that he’s got to go through as well. So we’re really excited to work with the tools he has.” — Bears general manager Ryan Poles

You should know

Williams is as unique off the field as he is on it. One of the first true stars of the name, image, likeness (NIL) era, Williams already has made millions of dollars and signed endorsements with Dr. Pepper, Wendy’s and Nissan, among others. Poles said evaluating such prospects in the NIL era is different but is in some ways useful to gauge maturity, and Williams, who has a team of representatives working for him, has passed those tests.

“It puts these guys in a spotlight,” Poles said. “It gives them more responsibility. It forces them to prioritize – money, business, football, school. How do they handle that? What kind of structure do they put around them to make sure they’re making good decisions? Do they have people that can say, ‘No, that’s not going to fit with my timeline.’”

Round 1, No. 9: Washington wide receiver Rome Odunze

Height, weight: 6-3, 215.

Why the Bears drafted him

Poles has done his best to build up a support system around Williams, and Odunze is the latest addition to that effort. Poles touted Odunze’s versatility to line up inside and outside and his ability to make contested catches and gain yards after the catch. He said he plays big and strong. And he touted his character and work ethic. Odunze had 92 catches for an FBS-best 1,640 yards and 13 touchdowns in an All-America senior season at Washington in 2023.

Why he wasn’t drafted sooner

The 2024 wide receivers class was stacked at the top with Ohio State’s Marvin Harrison Jr., who went No. 4 to the Arizona Cardinals, and LSU’s Malik Nabers, who went No. 6 to the New York Giants. ESPN’s Mel Kiper Jr. said he sees “all three of them being great in the NFL.”

In his own words

“They’re getting a versatile receiver. I think I do a lot of things well on the field, honestly, from playing outside, playing inside, catching contested balls, creating separation. I feel like I do all these things at a high level. And I’m looking to come and make that immediate impact, find my role within the team with great receivers like Keenan Allen and DJ Moore already there. Just finding my role within that and creating avenues for the offense to have success.” — Odunze

Analyst’s take

“I like big, fast, physical, smart, tough guys who can go play above the rim and who have some route polish to them. As a player I love what he has from a skill-set standpoint. I think all of it translates. Big games in the NFL, especially going to the postseason, I think some of that space disappears. You have to have guys who can win with bodies around them. He can do that. That’s not to say he can’t run. … He can run too.

“There’s a bounce and an energy to him that I love. I love the fact that even though you might have to coach some of this out of him, he hates running out of bounds. You’ll see the competitiveness in him. When he is on the sideline, he tries to get everything he can get. He is a real, real competitive football player.” —Jeremiah

From the front office

“The kid’s just put time in, and he got better and better every single year and he’s a winner. He can impact the game at any moment. If you’re at quarterback, and you’re in doubt, you want to just go give a guy an opportunity to go finish, he’s your guy. He’s done that consistently.” — Poles

You should know

Odunze wore No. 23 in youth football because he was a fan of Devin Hester. The Las Vegas native said he stumbled across a YouTube video of the former Bears great, which sparked his fandom.

“He had this tape to a Lil Wayne track, and I probably watched it over 1,000 times of him returning kicks, returning kicks in the Super Bowl,” Odunze said. “That just really inspired me.”